Recognise and tackle Dementia as a serious and growing health problem

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Let's not forget to fight for those who can't remember - I wish I could dodge Dementia for my grandfather. If only there was a cure for this progressively debilitating disease that destroys memory and other important mental functions.

My Grandfather was a jolly, extremely active and devout personality. He was a loving and simple human being. It's hard to watch such a man starting to lose his memory, cognitive abilities, and personality/physical abilities progressively since the last 3-4 yrs.

Alzheimer's disease is the most common and severest type of Dementia. Dementia is a collective name for progressive degenerative brain syndrome which affects memory, intellect, behaviour, and emotions serious enough to interfere in daily life. It is not a normal part of aging and sadly there is no cure.

What starts off as mild cognition disorder worsens to total dependence for all activities of daily living requiring round the clock care. Dementia patients are difficult to manage beyond the moderate stage, as they do not behave normally and are dependent on full-time care mostly by family members or paid carers. Wandering, repetitive behavioural disorders, incontinence, falls, mood swings, aggression. etc are common symptoms. Over time, the condition worsens to a level where the person suffering from dementia becomes totally incapable of doing his/her daily chores, recognise the loved ones, understand or communicate and even eat and drink on his own.

In India, it is estimated that over 4 million people are affected by dementia. This figure may double by 2030. Despite the magnitude, there is gross ignorance, neglect, and scarce services for people with dementia and their families right from early diagnosis, correct medication to delay progression, medical facilities and social support.

The public awareness about dementia in India is low. It was perceived as normal and anticipated as part of aging. There is no special emphasis on dementia diagnosis and management in the training of healthcare professionals. Media interest in dementia and related healthcare issues remain low. This general lack of awareness has serious consequences.
 
Low awareness and the resultant low demand for services perpetuate the silent suffering of the affected people and their families. It is essential to change these state of affairs by the concerted efforts of all stakeholders with an important role for the Government

Globally dementia has affected over 50 million people. In May 2017, WHO published a global plan on Dementia 'Call for Action 2017-2025' which mandates all Governments to come with a country plan on Dementia by 2025.

Alzheimer's and Related Disorders Society of India (ARDSI)  then began a series of region-wise national consultative meetings to come up with a national strategy document leading to a country plan. The document they prepared was presented to the Union Government in September 2018 and the then Hon. Health Minister Shri J P Nadda who received it gave a public assurance that the central government would soon come out with a country plan for dementia.  While all this work has been done and more is in progress, as of May 2019, there is no National Dementia policy for India.

India being the third largest country just behind China and the United States, it is high time we too have a comprehensive National Policy/Strategy for Dementia with an Action Plan and a clear allocation of resources.

Following are some points that the National Strategy/Plan for Dementia could address:

·        The need to have dementia recognized as a disability of the elderly, so that they are placed on par with people from other handicaps and resources are reallocated in a more equitable manner.

·        Measures to include Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias in the Five Year Plan

·        Memory clinics at district levels for early diagnosis and management

·        Grant in aid to support daycare, respite care, long term care and home-based care for people with dementia

·        Training of medical  professionals and Paraprofessionals on dementia management

·        Setting up of 4-6 regional centers of excellence to look exclusively into Dementia-related ailments.

·        Setting up of a National Alzheimer’s Centre in New Delhi.
 
This petition and signature campaign will only strengthen the cause and convince the government to come up with a holistic plan and package to deal with dementia at each district level. I earnestly urge all to sign up for this campaign.

Each one of your singular support will greatly help to step up the momentum to make the government work in favour of people with dementia and their carers.